Plurals of words as words / phrases as phrases

Without recasting, is this the best way to punctuate the plurals of words as words, and phrases as phrases especially in BrE? Is it definitely a possibility? :smile:

There were too many ‘is’s, ‘has’s, ‘was’s, ‘whereas’s, ‘ass’s, ‘hello’s, ‘good-bye’s, ‘much obliged’s, ‘to be continued’s, ‘do’s, ‘don’t’s, ‘yes’s, ‘no’s, etc in that last passage.

And for numbers and letters, do these look okay below? I say ‘yes’ as well.

His ‘7’s look like ‘L’s.
His ‘a’s Look like ‘8’s.

Thank you.


  • @mgoronsky582, I'm not aware of any conventional use of single quotes in this way.

    There is a long history of using apostrophes in plurals. Unfortunately there is a body of English users — mostly American I think — who are fiercely opposed to apostrophes in plural spellings.

    Personally I would happily write

    His 7’s look like L’s.
    His a’s Look like ‘8’s

    I often write, for example the 1960's.

    I'm not so sure about the others. Several are recognised by the OED as meaning 'the act of saying ...'
    These are the spellings they record

    goodbyes and good-byes
    dos and do's
    yes's and yeses
    noes and rarely nos

    I see no problem with simply adding s to words or phrases that don't end in a vowel letter or s.

    much obligeds
    to be continueds

    That leaves a handful of words ending in s which can't be interpreted as 'the act of saying...'

    is, has, was, whereas, as (not ass)

    My personal view is that an apostrophe would be the least worst solution

    is's, has's, was's, whereas's, as's

    But it does look terrible.

    You could make it look better by playing with the font:

    is's, has's, was's, whereas's, as's

    On the whole, I don't think there's a solution that every reader will find acceptable — though probably many British readers agree with me about letters and numbers.

    Of course you can say all of these, but they pose a huge problem in writing.

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